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Web Desk
September 21, 2020

Nawaz worried for his own self more than democracy, says FM Qureshi


Web Desk
Mon, Sep 21, 2020
Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Senator Shibli Faraz, Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives, Asad Umer, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, and Federal Minister for Science and Technology, Ch Fawad Hussain addressing a press conference in Islamabad on September 21, 2020. — PID

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said Monday that PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif was more pained for his own sake rather than democracy, reacting to the former prime minister's speech at the All Parties Conference (APC) from a day earlier.

FM Qureshi, addressing a press conference along with Minister for Information Shibli Faraz, Planning Minister Asad Umar, and Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry, said PML-N had left a $20 billion resource gap when it departed and had thought that the PTI government would not survive.

The senior representatives of the federal government slammed the opposition leaders' speeches in the multi-party conference a day earlier, raising objections to what they described as the needless targeting of state institutions and baseless controversy over the 2018 elections.

Opposition parties had a day earlier announced a new alliance, named the Pakistan Democratic Movement, under which they said they would unite to oust the incumbent government.

"Where is the [APC] being celebrated?" FM Qureshi asked rhetorically.

"[It is being celebrated] in our neighbouring country [India], because every institution with whom he [Nawaz] was annoyed with was sullied [during the APC]," he said.

"Our allies and the IMF [International Monetary Fund] helped us come out of that situation," he said.

The foreign minister said that several experts are now warning that a second wave might emerge in the winters as he cited the UK's example for introducing new lockdown curbs.

"Those who had earlier called for a strict lockdown have now announced that they will protest in January and December and hold rallies," FM Qureshi said as he termed the call a "contradiction" for the health risks it will bring with it.

Qureshi said that the government had included several amendments proposed by the opposition in the FATF bills and that the government was successful in the joint sitting of parliament in getting them passed.

"We are not responsible for the opposition's failure," he said.

Talking about the opposition's timing, he said: "They are convinced that they will not be receiving any NRO [...] They have dragged their cases as much as they can."

Providing an analysis of the APC's objections over the country's foreign policies, he said that the entire world was convinced and had lauded Pakistan's role in Afghanistan's peace initiative.

"A political settlement [in Afghanistan] was PTI's and Imran Khan's stance since day one. The world wasn't convinced before, but it is now," he said, adding that the spoilers had tried to disrupt the talks, but fortunately the peace process had moved forward.

The foreign minister, slamming the opposition on Kashmir, said that the government had raised the issue of the disputed territory in a very sustained manner.

"When the situation was at its peak, we did not divert the people's attention; rather it was the JUI-F's dharna that diverted the nation's attention," he said.

The foreign minister claimed that the pain that the opposition showed yesterday was not for democracy, it was "personal". 

Elections bought into disrepute because Nawaz's party lost

Taking over the presser, Faraz started off by noting that Nawaz — who addressed the conference via videolink from London — had looked 'fit' during his speech at the conference yesterday.

The remark was an off-hand reference to Nawaz recently being declared a proclaimed offender by the Islamabad High Court after his repeated failure to appear before the court on the pretext that he was unwell and could not return to the country.

Speaking about the opposition's conference being allowed to be telecast live on TV, Faraz said that Prime Minister Imran Khan had himself decided that the speeches of opposition leaders Nawaz Sharif, Asif Ali Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto would be aired without hindrance.

"[That left] Maulana Fazl-ur-Rahman, but we did not wish to stop his broadcast either; it was the PPP which did that," he said, noting that Rahman himself had made his displeasure over being 'censored' known to the opposition parties.

The information minister then questioned why Nawaz was bringing the conduct of the 2018 general elections in doubt, but had never cast any doubts on the elections that had brought him to power thrice in the past.

"What Nawaz stated yesterday was contrary to the facts," the minister said, adding that 413 petitions were filed with the Election Commission regarding irregularities after the 2013 elections, while only 299 applications had been filed after the 2018 elections.

"Of those, only 90 were against National Assembly elections [...] and several of those were filed by PTI's candidates," he said.

Faraz said that Nawaz was bringing the elections into disrepute because his own party had lost.

"He is not helping Pakistan in any way by doing so," he added.

Faraz pointed out that the PML-N is represented quite well in the National Assembly, hence they should demand electoral reforms through the house.

"[And when] electoral reforms were done in their tenure, why did they not overcome the shortcomings [they are now complaining about] at that time?" Faraz asked.

'Premier's predictions coming true'

Meanwhile, Asad Umar, reminding the people about the premier's speech soon after becoming prime minister, said that PM Imran Khan had predicted that all of the opposition parties would gather together one day to protect their interests, "and that prophecy came true yesterday".

"When Imran Khan came into power [the opposition] thought that this government would fail due to the debts and economic conditions that they had left behind," he said.

Speaking about the coronavirus crisis that the country faced, he recalled that opposition leaders had made speeches about ousting the government and that "some even came back to the country" to save it from "devastation".

"In yesterday's [APC], the opposition did not discuss Pakistan's coronavirus strategy because world forums, including the United Nations, have recognised Pakistan's efforts [to curb it]," he said.

Umar said that the opposition was "so desperate" that it had opposed the government's Financial Action Task Force (FATF) related bills, which were only meant to take Pakistan out of the "grey-list".

"Their [demanded] NRO came in front of the people when they demanded 34 amendments to the National Accountability Bureau law," he said, adding that the opposition had attempted to "blackmail" the government into making these amendments in exchange for the passage of FATF-related bills.

Talking about the law and order situation in the country, Umar said the security and political situation in Karachi was improving. "A historic package has been announced for Karachi's development."

"For Balochistan — where anti-Pakistan forces are active — the prime minister has come up with a special package as well," he said, adding that the package would be announced in the coming weeks.

Umar claimed that Indian media had covered Nawaz's speech with the headline "Nawaz Sharif makes a political comeback after he attacks Pakistan's army".

The federal minister said that Pakistan was moving forward as the civil-military leadership was working together and were not suspicious of each other.

"Pakistan's enemies and the opposition believe that the country will move forward if there are no differences between the government and the military — and they do not want that to happen," he said.

Umar noted that in yesterday's speech, Nawaz had spoken out against the army.

"He should have at least thought before speaking against the military, as several of their people were martyred in operations during PML-N's government."

Press given freedom like never before

Taking over the conference, Fawad Chaudhry "congratulated" the information minister, stating that the sort of freedom that the media has today to cover the opposition was "never given before".

"In Nawaz's speech yesterday, he said that the military and judiciary were in the wrong," he recalled, adding that the PML-N supremo will become the first politician to ask his followers to come out on the streets as he sits comfortably in his apartment in London.

Chaudhry took a swipe at Nawaz's political past, saying the thrice elected prime minister is suffering forgetfulness.

"He has forgotten how he became known in politics," he said, referring to the fact that the PML-N supremo was nurtured by military dictator Ziaul Haq in his formative years as a politician.

The science minister said that the only problem between the opposition and the government was that the former wants the government to give some sort of relaxation in the cases against them.